Victims of crime compensation changes do not go far enough
20th Mar 2015
The Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) has welcomed the NSW Government’s partial backdown over unfair legislation which slashed compensation for victims of crime, but has said that recent and future victims will also be treated unfairly unless further changes are made to the compensation scheme.
The changes to the retrospective legislation were recently announced by Premier Mike Baird, following a campaign by Katrina Keshishian, a victim of gang rape whose payout was cut from $50,000 to only $15,000 after the law changed during her six-year wait for compensation.
ALA National President Andrew Stone congratulated the NSW Government for acknowledging that the changes to the victim’s compensation scheme in 2013 were unfair for existing victims in the system, and for committing to rectify this situation.
Previously, people had been left waiting for years for their compensation payments to be resolved.
“The Australian Lawyers Alliance congratulates the NSW Government for reversing its retrospective abolition of the victim compensation scheme in 2013,” Mr Stone said.
“Innocent victims of crime who had been waiting for years to have their cases assessed saw their payouts slashed when the rules were changed retrospectively. The government has agreed to restore these rights,” Mr Stone said.
“While stuck in the backlog, people’s claims for victims of crime compensation were unfairly slashed,” said Mr Stone. “We applaud the NSW government for their recognition that people already in the process should have been entitled to receive the amounts available when they first applied.”
However, Mr Stone said that further action was required.
“Under the current arrangements these people need to reapply for compensation through a long process which may take years. We should be making it as easy as possibly for these victims of crime, who have already been treated unfairly by the government, to access their full entitlements.”
“Victims of crime should not have to pay for the inefficiency of the NSW government,” Mr Stone said.
Mr Stone said that victim’s compensation payments were a powerful symbolic acknowledgement of pain and suffering, and were an important way of ensuring access to justice for victims of violence.
However, he said that while the pleas of past victims had been heard by the government, current and future victims of crime would not receive the same level of justice. Despite the government’s changes, they will still be subject to the new lower cap on compensation payments as dictated under the new scheme. Mr Stone called for the cap for all victims of crime, past, present and future, to be set at the same level.
“Given that the government has recognised that the compensation payment to past victims was inadequate under its Victim Support Scheme, why should victims today, tomorrow or next year be subject to this same inadequate level of compensation?” Mr Stone said.
“All victims of crime should be given access to the same levels of compensation to help them put the past behind them and facilitate their rehabilitation back to a normal life.”